Dem calls House 'most closed Congress ever'

Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) on Wednesday accused House Republican leadership of instituting more closed rules, which prohibit amendments, in this Congress than any of their predecessors.

"Today the House will adopt yet another closed rule for these two extender measures, which crosses a new Rubicon. We're going to break the record for the most closed rules considered by a Congress ever," Hastings, a member of the House Rules Committee, said.

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The House passed a rule, 227-189, that includes a closed amendment process for two tax extender bills expected on the floor Thursday. That brings the total number of closed rules in the current Congress to 62, more than the record of 61 closed rules during Nancy Pelosi's tenure as speaker in the 2007-2008 Congress.

Hastings argued that such a procedure preventing members from offering amendments prevented free debate.

"This may sound like inside baseball, but it's much more than just a procedural agreement," Hastings said. "Closed rules prevent the House from working its will on these measures. And that's the way it appears that leadership, or what's left of it, wants it to be."

"You're going to become the most closed Congress ever," Hastings said.

Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), the top Democrat on the House Rules Committee, said the increase in closed rules contributed to congressional gridlock.

"The majority’s insistence on shutting lawmakers out of the process through closed rules and blocking bipartisan compromise has made this the least productive Congress in history," Slaughter said in a statement.

Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) cited statistics from House Speaker John Boehner's office that the chamber has considered more than 1,000 amendments since January 2013. He also noted that the House has instituted open rules, which allow members to offer an unlimited number of amendments, for appropriations bills. Pelosi limited the number of amendments to appropriations bills during her tenure as speaker.

Just this week, the House debated nearly 70 amendments during consideration of the 2015 Transportation-Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill under an open rule. Members will also be able to offer as many amendments as they want to the 2015 Agriculture appropriations bill on Wednesday.

Across the Capitol, the Senate has only voted on nine amendments since July 2013.

This post was updated at 2:45 p.m.